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"There is no single way to sum up what it means to be a trans man."
June 10, 2013 11:23 AM   Subscribe

The Test Shot is an online visual project that aims to document and celebrate the variety and strength of transmasculine style. Ballet dancing "princess boys", dapper transmen fresh out of a golden age musical, hipstery trans* boys, preppy boy dykes, and video journalists in traditional Pakistani menswear showcase the diversity in how people interpret and express their gender through their favorite clothing. Original Plumbing [warning: non-explicit ad for porn site] is the premier print magazine dedicated to the sexuality and culture of FTM trans guys. OP documents diversity within trans male lifestyles through photographic portraits and essays, personal narratives and interviews. Read an interview with the creators, Dr. T's medical advice column, or check out blog entries on living in an all-male dorm,, how to get into queer porn as a trans guy,, and deciding to carry a baby after transition..

All labels/identifiers (such as "trans* boy" or "boy dyke") taken from interviews with the person in question as a way they self-identify. If you need to brush up on Trans 101 before participating in this thread, this covers the basics. This is a good resource for vocabulary.
posted by Juliet Banana (41 comments total) 111 users marked this as a favorite

 
If you need to brush up on Trans 101 before participating in this thread, this covers the basics. This is a good resource for vocabulary.

I <3 you, JB.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:35 AM on June 10, 2013 [31 favorites]


If you need to brush up on Trans 101 before participating in this thread, this covers the basics. This is a good resource for vocabulary.

BEST.

I award you the smartestest person ever award.
posted by Conspire at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2013 [7 favorites]


How is the term "transvestite" offensive?
posted by koavf at 12:00 PM on June 10, 2013


Excellent, great post, seconding Conspire and great to see some love for trans men as well as women.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:06 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


These words should not be used: 'transvestite,'

Are they just talking about calling trans* people transvestites? Is it disrespectful to use that word to refer to male-identified cis-males who like to dress up as women and don't identify as queer/genderqueer, or are they only referring to the term's misapplication? (trying to set my vocab straight, not a leading question)
posted by threeants at 12:09 PM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


How is the term "transvestite" offensive?

According to Wikipedia, 'Transvestite refers to a person who cross-dresses; however, these are clinical terms that carry potentially negative connotations or implications of mental illness. Cross-dresser, a word that more accurately describes the behavior and avoids clinical or pathological implications, is for many people the preferred term.'

This is news to me, too, so I hope I've not inadvertently hurt anyone by misusage.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:11 PM on June 10, 2013


Oooh thanks so much for the primer links; super helpful to combat the "someone is being wrong on the internet!!!" urges.

Goddamn I am attracted to every one of the guys you linked on The Test Shot.
posted by Mizu at 12:13 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


How is the term "transvestite" offensive?

For some reason, I keep reading that as "transvestite offensive," as in "enemy forces retreated after the second day of a fierce transvestite offensive on the Western Front." That probably says something about me.

Also, these transmen are rocking their looks, and, evidently, their lives.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:31 PM on June 10, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's impressive how much meaning these guys imbue their style and clothing with. I wish I was as thoughtful and purposeful about the things that I do and the clothes that I wear.
posted by ChuraChura at 12:34 PM on June 10, 2013 [4 favorites]


Thirding Conspire. I can't read any of the tumblr bits from where I am now, but the bits about the magazine are really interesting.
posted by corb at 12:36 PM on June 10, 2013


Autostraddle recently has had a few great articles with long discussions about dapper style and queer masculinity. Reading all three left me with lots of questions about the semiotics of style and their intersections with history, identity and the body.
posted by myelin sheath at 12:37 PM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow, what a neat, rich resource for some awesome elements of queer culture that, at least from here, don't get nearly as much attention as other elements. The links to other sites like dapperQ and the (sexy, nsfw) French condom PSA aimed at trans gay guys at Original Plumbing are pure icing. Thanks, Juliet Banana, I'm sharing this as much as I can.
posted by mediareport at 12:45 PM on June 10, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dude, dude, dude, don't show me things like dapperQ and hipster trans*boys and such ridiculously attractive and smoking hot people being smoking hot.

Well, okay, you can show them to me now, I'm at home, but I gotta say, I don't think I'll be getting anything done tonight.
posted by Katemonkey at 12:49 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing I wonder, as someone who is some-sorta-transmasculine, is why we have to refract all this stuff through the lens of sexual desirability, and what that means for trans guys who don't/can't/don't want to meet these particular standards.

On the one hand, it's exciting and validating to me to see these posts - on the other hand, I feel a little weird about it. Doubly so because while I'm certainly no slim young person, I know that I actually do meet a lot of these norms. I have wide shoulders and good hair and a strong jaw and I look good in hipster glasses, and I have narrow hips relative to my body size, so I look masculine in pants. As someone who has always, always encountered the world knowing that I am ugly, that I am a gender failure, that I am undesirable and better-off-invisible, the change that has occurred since I started presenting myself differently...is striking and actually a bit unpleasant.

I don't know - I feel like the validity of one's trans identity is so often framed - especially via tumblr and autostraddle - as being about fuckability and fashion. I feel like trans allies often feel that they best show their allyship by reiterating that we are attractive and desirable and well-dressed. There's even at times an air that our bodies are of necessity public bodies - public bodies to be praised for their display, true, but still basically public.

Now certainly, that's better than being unattractive and undesirable and badly-dressed and invisible...but honestly, I don't want to have my trans role models mostly exist as role models because they rock some awesome nineties fashions and have cutting-edge hairstyles, and sometimes I feel like that's how it is.

Which isn't to say that there's anything wrong with this post, or those websites...just that I feel a little bit weird about this discourse as a whole.

I also think that the "trans 101" link is the very height of awesome thoughtfulness and a truly excellent political gesture.
posted by Frowner at 1:22 PM on June 10, 2013 [61 favorites]


I don't know - I feel like the validity of one's trans identity is so often framed - especially via tumblr and autostraddle - as being about fuckability and fashion.

I'm not trans, so I may not be able to viscerally understand how deep this goes. But I do know that this is hard for some people. One trans friend of mine actually considered stopping her transition and going back into the wrong gender identity because she felt so unwelcome in the way she was appearing in her gender presentation.
posted by corb at 1:31 PM on June 10, 2013


Goddamn I am attracted to every one of the guys you linked on The Test Shot.

OH YEAH? WELL WHY DON'T YOU MARRY ONE?

..

(T-t-trust me, you won't regret it)
posted by jake at 1:41 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know how it's interesting to read a foreigner's description of what it's like to visit your country because of all the stuff you don't notice as a native? That and this.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:23 PM on June 10, 2013


I don't know - I feel like the validity of one's trans identity is so often framed - especially via tumblr and autostraddle - as being about fuckability and fashion.

I was sort of thinking the same, but I think it's also a fundamentally healthy reaction against the usual framing of being trans in the media and daily life, where it's either all about overcoming a series of obstacles to become really you, or all the depressing shit about how hard and dangerous it can be to be a trans man or woman.

Rejecting that idea of being trans as being saddled with a lifetime of misery and danger and no wonder people are going for the odd bit of hedonism. In that regard it's no different from how a lot of gay men behave(d) in celebrating their bodies and gayness.

It shouldn't be the whole of what being trans is about, but I don't think it does that much harm if you have blogs like this glorying in the beauty of being a trans boi.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:39 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like trans allies often feel that they best show their allyship by reiterating that we are attractive and desirable and well-dressed.

Yeah, "blanket statements of support" are sort of a beginning step toward being a good ally, but since being seen as attractive or fashionable isn't a priority at all for some people, it's more helpful to learn individual friends' mindsets, and give them the kind of support they actually want/need. Unfortunately it's not possible to have ALL trans*people as personal friends who you can dote on individually, but that's not going to stop me from trying.
posted by jake at 3:13 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just for the record, The Test Shot does appear to also feature folks who probably don't fit into mainstream notions of Tumblr Fuckability. I'm not the only one seeing those posts there, right?
posted by mediareport at 4:11 PM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Test Shoot is definitely meant to showcase people's individual style, which means people probably try to look their best, choose flattering outfits, and flattering shots are selected. However, for example, I'm not sure how Marion and Clark's photoshoot perpetuates any "YOU MUST BE *THIS* DREAMBOAT OR NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR TRANS* EXPERIENCE" standard.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:16 PM on June 10, 2013


Juliet Banana: "The Test Shoot is definitely meant to showcase people's individual style, which means people probably try to look their best, choose flattering outfits, and flattering shots are selected. However, for example, I'm not sure how Marion and Clark's photoshoot perpetuates any "YOU MUST BE *THIS* DREAMBOAT OR NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR TRANS* EXPERIENCE" standard."

It seems pretty clear that they're making a genuine effort to break out of the 'hot trans guys on tumblr' thing (not everyone is young, thin and white), but I'm not sure they've succeeded and I kind of think it's the framing as a fashion shoot. There's some disconnect between the way they've presented the photos as somehow documenting both 'everyday life' and 'style', though we're conditioned to view fashion shoots as fake. Also, people are picking clothes that are somehow significant, rather than simply being their style. Maybe if more of the pictures had text attached it would work better for me. I think the interviews with the models get lost a bit.
posted by hoyland at 5:23 PM on June 10, 2013


Yeah - in retrospect, I apologize for my comment, which was pretty reductive.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:45 PM on June 10, 2013


I'm happy that these youthful, hep transmasculine individuals are enjoying their engagement with fashion. I just want to underline, being a trans man myself, that one of the huge dollops of male privilege I was handed when I transitioned was the quite substantial reduction in the burden of meeting fashion and appearance standards.

Before my transition, my wardrobe and clothing expenses were much larger. As a professor, I regularly received student evaluations remarking on my appearance (in my case, positively, but I know that some colleagues who were cis women and not interested in fashion received cruel, derisive comments). Since my transition, I've not received a single student comment on my appearance--students actually confine themselves to discussing my competence as an instructor.

It's abundantly clear that women are subjected to much more judgment with respect to their appearance and fashion sense. Trans* women have to take up this burden when they transition, and trans* men get to be freed from it. (A person's mileage as a genderqueer person may vary according to gender expression, and often according to how others attempt to frame them under their gender-binary evaluation schemes.) I'd just like to see the privilege of fashion-optional male living acknowledged.
posted by DrMew at 6:02 PM on June 10, 2013 [32 favorites]


This is marvellous work, well done JB!

When in doubt, always defer to the way a person self-identifies.
Great advice, simple consideration goes a long way.
posted by arcticseal at 6:55 PM on June 10, 2013


This post makes me love the world today.
posted by skye.dancer at 7:37 PM on June 10, 2013


OMG can i send you a present, or something. Cookies?
posted by odinsdream at 8:06 PM on June 10, 2013


The FAQ posted led me to the story of Kye Allums. I'm a college basketball fan and yet somehow I hadn't heard his story.

This is a great post!
posted by SisterHavana at 8:07 PM on June 10, 2013


Holy shit, I wish I could rock a tie because this picture is fucking awesome. Also I need a cat vest in my life.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:06 PM on June 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


Frowner, I was just at the Because conference and one of the workshops was about looking at and analyzing what we consider attractive. One of the participants made a really good point about finding (other) knowledgeable, fiercely smart trans people attractive. And more people are starting to agree with that point. So I think we're still mostly in the "mockable minority" and "trans people deserve praise when they manage to pass cis judgment as conventionally attractive" and cotton ceiling stages, but there are rays of hope.
posted by jiawen at 9:46 PM on June 10, 2013


One of the participants made a really good point about finding (other) knowledgeable, fiercely smart trans people attractive. And more people are starting to agree with that point. - jiawen

Oh man, this. When I think about celebrating trans people, I don't just think about the people I would maybe not mind sidling up to (and believe me, lots of hot people all over the map in every which way have tickled my fancy).

One of the things that caught my heart about The Test Shot, days before I started to think about posting it to Metafilter, was this quote.

"I am very drawn to people who I may read as trans, but I don’t know where they started, where they’re going, or in which direction." - from the text by Greygory, here.

This image (from a recent Metafilter post by lullaby which I loved) speaks to me just as much as this image from the Test Shot. It actually speaks to me a lot more deeply, because while looking at pretty photos of trans boys makes my heart flutter like a teenage girl* looking at Tiger Beat, being reminding of the daily injustice perpetrated on transgendered individuals makes me all rage-having and deep sick feeling in my stomach having.

And I know, if I was transgender (instead of a rather wishy-washy genderqueer as previously documented) I could see being so sick of being fucked with in my daily life that a project like The Test Shot could seem very superficial, a shallow project that doesn't specifically do anything to advance civil rights,

But....that's ok, in my opinion. Like, you know how there are (probably) 756573 xoJane & Rookie articles about how you can be into fashion and pretty things and still be a feminist? I think you can be into plaid buttondowns and rad asymmetrical hairstyles and still be a trans ally/activist/whatever. My life has room for reading a thesis on the need for gender neutral bathrooms AND cute Tumblr selfies of punk rock bois mugging in the mirror and showing off their new tattoo.

Celebrate and fight for gender variance, every day, and every way. And try not to discount some forms of celebration because they're not serious enough for you, and recognize that one form of celebration doesn't detract from another.

*"Do I want to be him or do I want to fuck him?" she wondered, hands crossing unconsciously over her chest. "Yes," was the answer.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:22 AM on June 11, 2013 [10 favorites]


Celebrate and fight for gender variance, every day, and every way. And try not to discount some forms of celebration because they're not serious enough for you, and recognize that one form of celebration doesn't detract from another.

This is important. And difficult. And one of the problems of being in a disempowered situation is that it is almost always easier to relieve pain and frustration by taking aim at the people near you -- allies, fellow travelers, potential allies -- than the people in power. So you can get a little boost by tearing down someone for being "not serious enough" or wrong on a point of doctrine rather than taking on power, which usually hit back harder. The downside, of course, it is makes it harder to get the change you want, since you are busy cutting down your allies.

I've had some long-running debates with a friend who is not too keen on same-sex marriage because she feels it detracts from a lot more pressing struggles. And, you know, I see her point. On the other hand, I also know people eager to get married, and that this is the issue that is on the plate in front of me, so I should do what I can to ensure its passage because, although there are "more serious" problems, it would be churlish at best to deny others the right to marry on revolutionary principle.

So, while fashion is maybe not the most important thing, there is surely no harm in enjoying the pleasure these people take from their struggle to define themselves through their clothing choices?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:31 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fashion is not the most important thing -- and yet at the same time it IS an important thing, because it's a normalizing thing. We live in a culture that places a lot of emphasis on presentation and style, and being forcibly excluded from that milieu is yet another cut in a life that can already feature thousands of them.

Obviously, nobody should be required to participate in these kinds of activities or spend this kind of energy to be respected and honored, if they don't want to. (Case in point; I'm a cisgender woman, and the clothes I'm currently wearing could only be more utilitarian if they were scrubs or BDUs.) But creating an entry point into fashion/style for trans* people, and honoring the people who have seized fashion or style and made it their own, helps honor ALL trans* people as people who are welcome in that sphere if they feel like participating in it.
posted by KathrynT at 9:27 AM on June 11, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metatalk
posted by mlis at 1:12 PM on June 11, 2013


I feel a little funny dropping this in here, but.

I found out on facebook this morning that Leslie Feinberg is entering hospice care with end-stage Lyme disease. I knew Leslie years ago, when I was still in the lgbt publishing world, and hir book Stone Butch Blues was my "Mind. Blown" introduction to trans*/genderqueer history. This post - whose links I've been picking through for the last couple of days - had brought Leslie more to mind than usual, making me remember the time we spent together, and how much I always remembered Leslie's personal style and attitude towards gender and clothing (an imprecise quote, possibly from Stone Butch Blues: The suit I am wearing is not a "men's suit" if I am wearing it, since I am not a man).

I have little sense of how well-known zhe is now; if you hadn't known of hir, please gallop off to acquire hir books (and those of hir longtime partner, poet Minnie Bruce Pratt).

Thank you for your indulgence, and apologies if I've swerved the thread.
posted by rtha at 8:33 AM on June 12, 2013


Leslie Feinberg was one of the most powerful trans people I met when I was discovering my intersex condition, and is one of the reasons I identify as trans today (when it would be trivial for me to just blend in to the general populace and pass for a man).

At the time, Leslie visited my college and I was simply stunned by Leslie's presence, ideas and ability to articulate all that in a way I could understand and internalize.
posted by kalessin at 11:56 AM on June 12, 2013


Oh no. Stone Butch Blues was incredibly influential on me as a teenager, and remains so. That scene where she sings Blue Moon to her girlfriend in front of all their friends in a gay bar? I still can't hear that song without remembering that.

Thanks for the information, rtha, I had no idea.
posted by Juliet Banana at 12:17 PM on June 12, 2013


Transgendered Folks Encountering Document/Database ID Hassles
posted by homunculus at 6:12 PM on June 15, 2013


Note: the links in that /. thread are interesting, but some of the comments are, well, not.
posted by homunculus at 6:20 PM on June 15, 2013


Transgendered Folks Encountering Document/Database ID Hassles

VICTORY: Transgender People Can Now Change Their Social Security Record’s Gender Identity
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced that it is now much easier for trans people to change their gender identity on their Social Security records. All that will now be required, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, is for individuals to submit government-issued documentation reflecting a gender change, or a certification from a physician confirming they have undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.

This is a significant departure from the previous policy, which required documentation of complete sex reassignment surgery. Many trans people never undergo such procedures, either because they are too expensive, because they do not want to lose their procreative ability, or because it simply isn’t an important change for them to make to find authenticity in their identities. The SSA change eliminates this high standard for trans people to obtain the appropriate documentation for the gender that reflects how they live their daily lives.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:13 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a significant departure from the previous policy, which required documentation of complete sex reassignment surgery.

Genital surgery wasn't actually required under the old policy*, coincidentally, so the article's kind of sloppy (and this fact bothers me for some reason, I think because it reinforces the idea of "The Surgery"). It sounds like they're migrating towards the State Department's policy, which is good both in terms of consistency and because it's a fairly flexible policy.

*Which creates a double standard problem because trans men can usually meet a "some unspecified surgery" requirement more easily than trans women.
posted by hoyland at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2013


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